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From Middle English parcimonie, from Middle French parsimonie, from Latin parsimōnia (frugality, sparingness), from pars-, past participle stem of parcere (to spare), + -monia, suffix signifying action, state, or condition.


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈpɑɹ.sə.ˌmoʊ.ni/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: par‧si‧mony


parsimony (usually uncountable, plural parsimonies)

  1. Great reluctance to spend money unnecessarily.
    Synonyms: stinginess, frugality, economy; see also Thesaurus:stingy, Thesaurus:frugal
    • 1776, Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations:
      Parsimony, and not industry, is the immediate cause of the increase of capital. Industry, indeed, provides the subject which parsimony accumulates. But whatever industry might acquire, if parsimony did not save and store up, the capital would never be the greater.
    • 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 9, in Vanity Fair, London: Bradbury and Evans  [], published 1848, OCLC 3174108:
      If mere parsimony could have made a man rich, Sir Pitt Crawley might have become very wealthy []
    • 1964 October, “New Books”, in Modern Railways, page 296:
      THE WATERFORD & TRAMORE RAILWAY. By H. Fayle and A. T. Newham. David & Charles. 12s 6d. [...] Parsimony was responsible for low wages: at the turn of the century the Secretary & Manager was receiving £175 a year and the Locomotive Superintendent slightly less.
  2. (by extension) The quality or characteristic of using the fewest resources or explanations to solve a problem.
    • 2019 February 15, Boyd A. Mori et al., “A new species of Contarinia Rondani (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) that induces flower galls on canola (Brassicaceae) in the Canadian prairies”, in Canadian Entomologist, volume 151, DOI:10.4039/tce.2018.63, pages 131-148:
      We used three search heuristics, Bayesian inference, maximum likelihood, and maximum parsimony, to construct phylogenies from unique COI haplotypes and used default parameters for analyses unless otherwise noted.

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